At the offices of Ray Andrew, MD, PC, and Grand County Wellness Center, preventive medicine isn’t something we do “on the side.” It is an integral part of everything we do. Even in the urgent care setting, we keep in mind that typical treatments for common infectious diseases actually increase patients’ risk of future infectious diseases! Consequently, we are careful to look ahead and educate our patients about appropriate treatments in order to reduce the likelihood of causing long-term problems while trying to solve short-term ones.
Screening for disease is an important part of health care. Screening is only successful when early detection can prolong life and/or enhance quality of life over that which would occur if the condition in question was not identified until symptoms occurred. Screening for some conditions is best left undone because the treatment is worse than the disease, or the disease would not have shortened life or impaired the quality of life. For example, whereas most men will eventually die WITH prostate cancer, few men will die BECAUSE OF it. Most will have the “indolent” kind that doesn’t spread and kill. For many men, the benefit of treating prostate cancer is nil whereas the all-too-common risks include permanent erectile dysfunction and incontinence, both of them unresponsive to drug therapies.
True prevention, however, means preventing disease before it occurs. In other words, before it would ever show up even on a screening test. Preventive medicine is woven throughout everything we do. It involves identifying risk factors and recommending lifestyle and other interventions to reduce one’s risk of developing disease in the coming 5-50 years. To use an analogy, imagine a narrow road carved into a steep mountainside. Anyone can see the wisdom of it building a guardrail at the outside edge of the road rather than parking an ambulance at the bottom of the mountain. While this is obvious when it comes to dangerous roadways, over the last hundred years mainstream medicine has been so consumed with beefing up the ambulances that it has largely ignored the guardrails, except perhaps to paint designs on them from time to time.
Our patients are increasingly most interested in how we can help them prevent the following diseases: